One of the most frustrating things for Caucasian South Africans in settling in North America is the general lack of knowledge on the continent about South Africa. Many cannot point it out on a map, despite the name. Millions honestly believe Africa is one country. That is how this author was attacked by an American lady with an MSc in Physics for not removing Idi Amin from office! Most likely I need to explain that he was the despotic ruler of Uganda in the 1970s.
Those who at least know South Africa is a country, know only one word about it, and that word is ‘apartheid’. They somehow believe they know what that is, until one asks them one or two questions. They truly believe that people of different races walked on different sides of the street. And they will stare at one blankly when one honestly reports that one had never seen such a thing. A young student told me in the last 5 years that they had recently been taught exactly that in school. I’d love to meet the author of the text book they are studying from.
BUT, here is the other thing they all believe they know about South Africa. They believe to a person that there were Black people at Cape Town when the Dutch settled there. Of course, they are dead wrong. When the Dutch arrived in 1652, the Black amaXhosa were at what is today the southern boundary of the KwaZulu-Natal province. That is some 800 miles from Cape Town!
Once one explains this, the argument usually becomes one of “Yes, but that is very long ago and the Black people were everywhere soon after“. In fact, that is also a massive fallacy. But, who is this author to verbally wave his arms about and explain, if it can be done much more elegantly by none other than the first British Commander at the Cape in 1796. This was less than a year after he arrived. It was also 144 years AFTER the Dutch settled the cape.
To give some time perspective, the first of the much lamented apartheid laws were formulated in 1948. By then the settlement at the Cape was 296 years old. That means the halfway point in history up to that moment was the year 1652+148=1800. So, the question is, what was the distribution of people roughly at that halfway mark.
So, let us proceed to the words  of the first British Commander at the Cape, General Craig, as written to Henry Dundas, the Secretary of War under Pitt on 12 April 1796. This was around six months after taking the Cape from the Dutch to prevent it falling into Napoleon’s hands:
A few days ago arrived here three Caffres, who said their sole business was to see the new nation, which they understood was now come to the Cape...[…]...I did my utmost to conciliate their friendship, and sent them away loaded with presents. It is a great many years since a Caffre was at the Cape. I endeavoured to persuade him, that it would be proper, that the King himself should come here, that I would furnish him with everything he wanted, and wished much to be friends with him, but he replied seemingly with some indignation at the proposal, that the King would not leave his own country, but that he would get him to send some of his principal men here.
It is so elegant when history stands up and gives black on white testimony to the truth. Here we have the man who would have intense interest in the matter of a competing nation “on his doorstep”, and he records that “it is a great many years” since a Black Southern African man was at the Cape. It would have been more accurate for him to say there had NEVER been one. The simple reason for this, is that the black people were actually some 600 miles east of the Cape at that point.
- George McCall Theal, Records of the Cape Colony from February 1793 to December 1796, (1897), p.354 Letter from Craig to Dundas